Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

If God Can Do That, He Can Do Anything!

daddy-and-little-girl.jpgOur daughter, Stacye, has always been “my little girl”. From the time she was able to toddle around the house she would follow me and get into whatever project or ‘honeydo’ thing I was doing. There are many experiences I could relate about her life, but none could match the lesson of faith God gave our family related to her wedding day.
Several years ago, while living in West Virginia, Kathi and I were enjoying a much needed ‘day-off’. We drove to a town about thirty minutes away and Kathi wanted to stop at a health-food store. I had little interest in going into the store so I stayed in the car and turned on a Christian radio station. They were playing some good worship music and I was enjoying the Presence of the Lord. Suddenly, a song began to play about a Daddy and his little girl. It was a ballad and the storyline spoke of the relationship between the Daddy and his little girl from her earliest years, through the teen struggles and ended on her wedding day. As the song played I began to think about Stacye. She was about 12 or 13 years old at the time but she seemed to be growing up all too quickly. I thought of what it might be like on her wedding day and I began to cryCry. Kathi came back to the car and found me dissolved in tears. Being the caring person she is, she asked what was wrong with me? I tried to tell her about the song and I told her I felt I needed to sing it on Stacye’s wedding day.
There was a problem, however. I did not know the name of the song and I did not know, who was singing it. I immediately called the radio station but they were unable to identify either the song or the recording artist. For several weeks and months I searched at Christian bookstores, record shops (that dates me doesn’t it?) and asked everyone I thought would know, but came up empty. Finally, I simply prayed a prayer of desperation. I said, “Lord, if you want me to sing that song at Stacye’s wedding one day, you’re going to have to find it for me. I’ve done everything I know to do and I just can’t find it.” At that point I was able to release the whole thing into the hands of a soverign God.
Days became weeks and weeks stretched into years. I don’t remember being overly anxious about finding the song. I had given it into the hands of the One who knows all, so why should I worry? Some years after, the Lord moved Kathi and me to Sarasota, Florida to minister to a small group of believers. We had been there about a year and a half and Kathi and I went out to eat at an Amish Diner. After enjoying a fine meal, we were walking out the door and I saw a poster advertising “Steve and Annie Chapman”. Steve and Annie are Christian entertainers. Dr. James Dobson has called them, “Missionaries to the home”. I said to Kathi, “Oh, honey! I would love to see Steve and Annie.” You see, Annie and I were raised in the same community. We went to the same Church, attended the same schools and belonged to the same 4-H Club. I had not seen her in many years and my heart thrilled to think of the opportunity to renew our fellowship.
The date arrived and Kathi and I went to the Mennonite Church in Sarasota for the concert. It was so good to hear them sing and several of their songs brought tears to our eyes. Just prior to intermission. Steve Chapman said there had been a request for a certain song that he had NOT planned to do, but he felt the Lord would have him grant the request. As he began to sing I immediately knew it was the song I had heard some eight years previously and which I had committed to the Lord to help me find. I turned to Kathi and said, in a not so quiet voice, “KATHI! THAT’S THE SONG”! I had spoken with such force and joy that people were turning around, looking at me from several different places in the sancturary.
Can you imagine the thrill in my heart? I had truly committed this into the hands of the Lord. I had not worried about it. I had actually trusted God about something that was really important to me…and do you know what I discovered? I discovered it was important to God too.
After the concert Kathi and I were invited by a family to share in a reception for Steve and Annie. We had a marvelous time reviewing ‘old times’ together as children. I finally had the opportunity to tell Annie the story I have just told you. She said to me, “Well, Dave, I’ll just send you the accompaniament tape so you can sing at Stacye’s wedding.
Little did I know eight years prior, sitting in my car, listening to a song on the radio in West Virginia that God was going to use that experience to teach me one of the greatest lessons of faith I have ever had. Later that night I was reflecting about the experience. I looked up to heaven, lifted my hands in praise and said, “God, if you can do that, you can do anything!” To this day that experience in Christ remains as one of the most glorious in my walk with Christ. I have reviewed it a number of times as I have faced times of testing and trial in the succeeding years. The thought of what God did for me then encourages me to continue to ‘fight the good fight of faith’.
Below are the words to: YOU’RE THE ONLY LITTLE GIRL IN MY HEART!
bride-and-groom.jpg
She skipped across the room in her pretty new dress.
Did a balerina turn in her patent leather shoes.
and to say the very least I was impressed. She was my little girl.
Chorus:
And we played our little game again. I said,
‘Who’s the only man in your heart’?
And she smiled as we held each other’s hands.
She said, ‘Daddy don’t ya’ know, Daddy don’t ya’ know?
You’re the only man in my heart.
A few years later in her life. I saw her walkin’ home from school.
She had her books in her arms and a young man at her side.
And I felt a jealous pain. And I felt just like a fool.
But when the young man told her ‘Bye, I said,
‘Can I walk with you’?
And we played our little game again. I said,
‘Who’s the only man in your heart’?
And she smiled as we held each other’s hands.
She said, ‘Daddy don’t ya’ know, Daddy don’t ya’ know?
You’re the only man in my heart’!
It’s hard to believe. That day has come and gone.
He put a ring on her hand that held her Daddy’s heart.
And I’ll always remember, when they played that wedding song,
the words my little girl said to me…
“Daddy! Can we play that little game?
Who’s the only little girl in your heart?”
And I cried as I softly called her name.
I said, “Honey, don’t ya’ know, Stacye don’t ya’ know
You’re the only little girl in my heart.
I don’t know what special thing God may have promised you or how bleak the situation might be to see it come to pass. My encouragement is for you to turn it over to the One, who knows all things and, who is able to do exceeding, abundantly more than we can ask or think. Who knows? You may be having a quiet evening out with your companion or friend and, in a moment God may do something special for you too…And, if God can do that, he can do anything.
Oh yeah…I and Stacye’s best friend, Naomi, did sing the song at her wedding. I ‘blubbered’ my way through it. But it was even more special than I can tell you. She’s still the only ‘little’ girl in my heart.

August 29th, 2007 Posted by | Faith, Prayer | 12 comments

A Convenient God…A struggling Faith

Please view the video clip before reading my comments…

Whoa! That was powerful, huh? As I watched it I had a whole bushel basket full of emotions and thoughts that flooded my mind. I was thrilled as the young lady danced with the Lord and allowed him to provide for her needs. He seemed to give her what she needed almost before she knew she needed it. I became nervous as she allowed the demons and Luicifer himself to take her attention away from God with alluring temptations and then smash her hopes on the rocks of frustration and despair. I found myself wanting to warn her not to allow this enemy to sow into her sacred soil. I was thrilled as she tried to make her way back to God and I cheered as our mighty Lord rescued and restored her to his perfect will once again.

This, of course, could have been a microsom of each of us. How many times have we found ourselves in the glorious Presence of God with our vision in tact and our faith so strong we could move a mountain (or at least leap a tall building with a single bound). Then, almost without warning, the scene changes and we find ourselves in a dark spiritual cavern with hords of demons all around us, pulling us further and further away from the Lord we love. How did we get here anyway?

Life just isn’t fair is it? For what did you sign up, when you became a Christian? Did you think it was going to involve all this struggle? What kind of a God is it who allows us to go through such trials, disappointments and hurts? As I look at the state of the Church today and compare what we have with what the New Testament teaches, I find a large gap. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his classic book, “The Call to discipleship”, “When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” How does that mesh with the convenient Christianity in our western culture? I ask, “In an effort to become culturally relevant with the gospel message are we in danger of losing the Christ of the gospel ?” I mused with the flock under my charge recently, “When was the last time you saw someone weeping over their sins, because they knew they had offended a holy God?” I dare say it is a very rare event. Rather, it is more common for people to simply want to add a little ‘Jesus’ to their life, so to speak. After all they don’t really think their life is all that bad, but could use a little boost in the right direction.

A Christianity which fails to prepare a young believer for battles in life is a Christianity not worth having. To get someone to ‘grunt’ at a few theological statements, pronounce them saved and leave them to face the hords of evil by themselves is to place them in a worse state than they were previously. A six week course in ‘discpleship’ was not sufficient for the first disciples of Jesus and certainly will not suffice for us today.

The young lady in the video depicts most all of us, when we first become Christians. The birds sing more sweetly. The trees seem to blow more fervently in the breeze. We pray and our prayers are answered. It is so very easy to believe…But, there comes a time, when this loving God of ours allows us to be tested and tried. We pray and are met with silence. Instead of a gentle breeze at our back, we find gail force winds in our face. No robins or sparrows flitting around us now, but rather vultures swarm us, threatening to pick the last ounce of hope from our faith. In the beginning we had perfect fellowship with the Lord. He was with us all the time, but now, we can hardly sense him at all. WHY? Why does a supposedly loving God treat us this way? Why doesn’t he just ‘swoop’ down and defeat that which opposes our newfound faith? Why does He wait so long before rescuing us? I confess, I don’t know all the answers to those questions. I do know there is something important about the struggle of faith. It is important for us to come to the determination that we want God, his kingdom, his will, his way, no matter what. It is important for us to struggle long enough to know that we are absolutely unable to help ourselves. It is when we reach the end of our horded resources that our Father’s full giving has only begun.

So, is your god convenient? Does he do what you want him to do, when you want him to do it? Will you serve him, even when he disappoints you? Does he immediately rescue you out of all your trials? If not, hold on. You just might have the right God after all. Though He linger long He never cometh late.

August 23rd, 2007 Posted by | Discipleship, True Church LIfe | 3 comments

The Most Wonderful Man in the World!

     three-crosses.jpgHow would you like to be known as the most wonderful man in the world? Alas, that lot fell to me some time ago.  No! Really!  For many years now it has been my habit to try to acknowledge Christ in some way as I go through my day.  Just a word of praise, nothing major you understand.  Actually, my wife does a better job of it than I do but I practice it as the Lord helps me.  Lifestyle evangelism, not ‘cold calling’ is more the Biblical model.  To truly win someone to Christ one will have to invest time and effort  in the lives of others.  As a rule, people must know you care for them before they will care that you know them. 

     One of the bright spots in my life came as quite a surprise to me one day.  It had been my habit to get my gasoline at one particular station.  Each time I would go in to pay for my gas I would give some acknowlegment to God, a word of praise or thanksgiving.  I did this week after week and year after year with no visible results.  Then one day after pumping my gas, I went in to pay as ususal and gave some word of gratitude for the beautiful day.  The man who was waiting on me said, “Do you see that guy standing out there?”  I said, “Yes, I do”.  The gentleman he was referring to was another employee of the station and had gone out front to assist another customer.  The first attendant then said,  “He thinks you are the most wonderful man in the world.”  I’m sure my mouth flew open in amazement because he then said, “He says you always have something good to say and greet him with respect and encouragement.” 

     I had no idea my witness was affecting anyone much.  I had had no indication previously that my feeble effort was doing any good at all.  Now, let me say that I know full well that I am NOT “the most wonderful man in the world”.  But it really doesn’t matter whether I am or not.  What really matters is that man thinks I am.  In reality I am so full of blemishes and ‘warts’ that it is only by God’s glorious grace I could encourage anyone.  See, it is not about me.  It is about Jesus.  My little witness for Christ over the years made an impression on a man.  He saw a frail, faulty man, who was living in the same broken, shattered world he was, but, who was finding something to be thankful for and someone to whom to be thankful. 

     John chapter 4 contains the beautiful account of Jesus’ encounter with the one we call ‘the woman at the well’.  This experience is perhaps the best instruction in personal evangelism a disciple could ever get.  There is so much to glean from in this passage but for our purposes today I want to draw attention to the the 36th- the 38th verses.  Jesus said,

 “…the sower and the reaper rejoice together…One sows and another reaps…I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor…”

     I have no way of knowing how many people sowed into that man’s life before me or how many shared Life with him after me.  What I do know is that just inside the gate of heaven will be a line of witnesses, who will go by the title, “the most wonderful person in the world“.  No matter how far you have travelled on your pilgrim journey.  No matter how insignificant you may feel and no matter how many times you may wonder, if your life really matters or not.  Take heart.  Keep encouraging the folks around you.  If you do, I believe you will also  be “the most wonderful person in the world”.                           

    

August 19th, 2007 Posted by | Witnessing | 2 comments

Passing the Torch

passingthetorch1.jpg     The story behind the statue in the picture is one of faith and endurance in the midst of trial, a vision for Christ and His Church in these last days, and promise for the blessed wedding between Christ and His Bride, yet to take place.

     There really is no good starting place so I will just begin with a vision for Church that is somewhat different than the typical “going to Church” system we have made for ourselves in Western civilization.  From my days on the campus of Marshall University in the late ’60’s to the present my vision of Church is more of an organic relationship between redeemed people, who love their Lord and express that love through their fellowship with one another.  I believe man is made in the image of God and a great part of that image is the desire of man to find his “counterpart” with which he can share life.  Since we are made in God’s image, it follows that God, too, has a desire for a “counterpart”, His Bride…the Church.  Since the early days of my ministry, I have been on a quest to find the Bride; those believers, who have a deep passion for their Lord and, who are not satisfied with the the status quo.

    My quest took me to Sarasota, Florida where I met Steve Coder. siesta-key-beach.jpg  Steve is the President of Hand to the Plow Ministries  , a  mission group with a heart for help, healing and hope.  We immediately had fellowship in the Lord.  His heart was as mine, longing for the Church to awaken and rise from the dead.

A short time later Kathi, Nathan (our youngest son) and I  moved back to West Virginia and began a House Church.  It was during this 3 1/2 year period that I began to question the vision of Church God had given me.  I wondered, if I was on the right trail or not.  Finally, in the summer of 1996 I put out a fleece and asked God to let me know by September 12, 1996, if my vision of the Church was the direction in which He wanted me to go.

      Steve called from Florida and asked if I would meet him in Atlanta, GA for the Open Church Conference.  A friend of ours was to be the keynote speaker.  I agreed to meet him there.  We arrived at a beautiful 5-star hotel with a winding staircase, waterfall, and green foilage everywhere.  After the afternoon session, I stopped by the book table and purchased a book by James Chen, a disciple of Watchman Nee.  The book was titled, “The Passing of the Torch”.  The gist of it is that there are times when God puts his hand on a group of people and uses them uniquely for a period of time and for a specific reason.  Mr. Chen further commented that just as surely as God puts his hand on a group he may also withdraw his hand of special anointing.  Chen reasoned, “Wise is the man and wise is the group, who recognizes when God has PASSED THE TORCH to someone else”.  Watchman Nee once said, “to be used of God once in a lifetime is worth a lifetime of living”.  What does one do in the ‘before’ and the ‘after’?  Our assignment is simply to love and serve our Lord and leave the special anointings and ministries to him…I digress…

     I purchased the book, which, incidentally, had a picture of one passing the torch to the other on the cover. Steve and I decided to go to the deli in the hotel to get a sandwich.  While sitting at the table.  I suddenly realized it was September 12th and it was nearly dark and I had not heard from the Lord about the direction for my life.  I said to Steve, who had been praying with me, “Well, brother, I can’t tell that God has said anything about direction for my life”.  Steve said, “It’s not over till it’s over.”  When he said that, I looked up and coming down the beautiful, winding staircase was a bride and groom in full wedding apparel.  I looked at Steve and he at me and he said, “Do you need any other sign?”  Embarassed

     The wedding couple walked past us and out the door into a beautiful garden.  Steve and I followed them.  But as surely as the anointing of God was on them in the hotel, it left and we were drawn to continue walking.  It was then that we came upon the statue seen above.   I had just purchased a book by the title of “Passing the Torch”.  God had confirmed mine and our vision of the Bride of Christ and now he seemed to be saying that we were among those who would take this message of passion and organic commitment to some measure of the Body of Christ.  The torch has been passed to us.  For how long I do not know.  Who passed it to us?  Don’t know that either.  But I do know this is a vital part of Supreme Ambition Ministries.  I stand in that knowledge today and run with perseverance the race set before me.   Would you run with me?

August 16th, 2007 Posted by | True Church LIfe | one comment

Alpha and Omega

 alpha-and-omega.jpg  Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Rev. 22:13).  In the previous writing, Where Does the Church Live?, I made reference to the “Alpha”, Christ,  as being the one to whom believers should humble themselves in order to lay the foundation  for success in living the Christian life.  That statement caused me to start thinking about the term, “Alpha and Omega”.  What does it really mean? I discovered that beyond its expressing the eternality of our Lord the terms actually refer to His status among men. It references his dominion.

      He is at once both the leader and the least.  LEADER AND LEAST?  What does that mean?  How can that be? Having just immersed myself in the Battle at Kruger (see previous blog), my mind is  still musing over the social order in the animal kingdom, some of which seems to cross over to homosapiens.  I read an article recently on the social hierarchy among wolves. wolf-pack.jpg It seems they have a very rigid “pecking” order.  There is very definitely one who is the Alpha.  He is the one who determines when the pack will hunt and what they will hunt.  He is also the one who decides the order in which the members of the pack eat once a kill has occured.  I also discovered that within the wolf pack is one who is known as the Omega.  This wolf must take a submissive role to everyone else in the pack.  When approached by another wolf in the pack,the Omega must roll over on his back and let the others do whatever they please.  He is the last to eat, the last to drink, the last in line and, if a female, the last to be bred.  The only hope for the Omega wolf is, if one of the pups takes his/her place or, another wolf joins the pack and the position falls to him/her. 

     My meditation on the passage from Revelation 22:13 began to take flight.  Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega…”  Whoa!  Could it be?  Could there be an application from the animal kingdom to our glorious Lord?  I wanted to be sure I was on solid Biblical ground and sure enough I discovered that in addition to referring to His eternality, the phrase was also indicative of the gammet of his dominion.  Normally, when these words are read, the natural thought is of our conquering Lord.  He is before the beginning and He will still be after the end.  That’s really great!  But, consider that He also is Lord…He is Alpha.  He is the one who decides our goals, chooses our vocation, leads us to our companion.  He is the Alpha…

     …But he also is the Omega.  Isaiah 53 says,  
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men’ a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’ and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised and  we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

  

Yes, it was Jesus, who rolled over on his back, as it were, and took the place of a servant.  It was He, who became obedient unto death”… (Phil. 2:8).  He was the seed which fell into the ground and died and who brought forth much fruit.  Because he willingly became the scapegoat, God “highly exalted him”, made him the Alpha.  This Lord of ours actually chose to be the Omega.  He had the right of Alpha by who he was, but he earned the right of Leader by becoming the Least. 

     When you find yourself in a group of your peers and they treat you with less respect than you wish, just remember there is one who understands.  He is both the Alpha and the Omega.  His kingship was earned in a most unusual way. He did not gain his right of reign by overpowering, pushing and proding.  In God’s Kingdom everything is upside down from earth.  The slow win the race.  The slave gets the crown.  The last are the first and The Omega is the Alpha.   Before He came to earth the Son was King but now He is King of Kings.  Before time and Space He was Lord, but now He is Lord of Lords.  In eternity past he was the all, but now He is the all in all.  In history he was the Omega who became the Alpha.  But now…HE IS…and forever will be… THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA.  

August 15th, 2007 Posted by | Centrality of Christ | one comment

Where Does the Church Live?

Where does the Church live? Now, that is a strange question. However, I believe the answer to it or at least the effort to do so may be just the antidote needed to put the fullness of life into the Body of Christ.

I just recently saw the “youtube” video clip of the Battle at Kruger. If you have not seen it yet, please take time to view it now (click on the arrow or URL above). It is well worth the effort…As I watched this clip I was moved deeply by the actions I saw the herd of Cape Buffalo take in rescuing the little calf. Having watched the clip you now know that their were a small group of buffalo, who were separated from the herd and were attacked by a Pride of lions. The lions singled out a young calf, tackling it into the water and were preparing for a feast when a crocodile felt he might join them for lunch by clamping down on the hind quarters of the little calf. A tug of war ensued between the crocodile and the lions with the calf as the ‘pull-ee’. The lions won the tug of war and the little calf looked as though he would be lunch for the feline pride.

buffalo.jpg Suddenly, the entire herd of Cape Buffalo (approx. 100) make their way back towards the “lunch table” and they have one thing on their minds. They are going to rescue the calf. What follows is perhaps one of the most beautiful pictures of unity I have ever seen. The Herd against the Pride. The lesser against the greater. The vassals against the crown. However, you might like to put it, the buffalo forgot all fear and with calculated abandonment they proceeded to make the hunter the hunted. They gouged, kicked, chased and snorted at the lions until…they let go and the little calf just simply stood up and disappeared into the herd of buffalo. WOW!!

As I watched the event unfold I gave pause to something. I thought how the safety of the herd was in their ability to stick together. I mused about the fact that lions live in prides, sheep live in flocks, wolves live in packs. The safety of each of these animal groups is in direct proportion to their place within their environment. With that in mind I thought, “What is the environment of the Church? Where do the people of God live? We don’t live in herds, coveys, or prides. Maybe until we find our proper living environment we will have great difficulty getting the living of the Christian life right. Then it came to me, Jesus established the Church as the environment and realm where Christians live. Now when I say church I do not meanchurch-building.jpg but rather the people of God, you and me…us…we…from every tribe, nation, language and race.

Jesus’ overriding prayer in John 17:21 was “that they may all be one as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (ESV). In order for that to take place we will have to do similarly as did the herd of buffalo. We must surrender to the will of the Alpha (Christ). We must love Him, our environment (church), and we must live in utter abandonment to Christ and His purposes. We must find ways to move together organically. We must live together, function together, die together and live together. When we do, the culture around us will say, WOW!! Until then, we will continue to be just so many Christians caught between a lion and a crocodile. We will be lunch for any and all predators.

 

August 9th, 2007 Posted by | True Church LIfe | 5 comments

Salt and Light 2

dog-and-cat.jpg
…The previous sharing gave the Biblical challenge for being salt and light in a post-modern culture. The following is a true account of how the Lord helped Kathi and me to flavor our life in a positive way for our neighbors:

In a community where we lived there was a young couple who purchased the home next door to ours. The young woman’s father was a good man whose desire was to help his daughter and her family get settled in to their new place. On several occasions this gentleman spoke with me about what he intended to do to make sure all things were right with the property. One of the things on his list was to have a survey done on the property lines. He told me, if the neighbor’s fence directly behind me was on his line, he would be sure it was moved or their would be a law suit.

Several days later I noticed the surveyor with his transit sighting the lines. The next day my new friend came to me and he looked very concerned. He said the survey showed that his fence was so many feet on my property. He apologized and said for me to decide what I wanted for the property and let him know. As soon as he spoke I knew what I wanted for the property but felt I should check with Kathi first, since she is part owner also. I told her the story and she said, “What do you think about charging him $1.00?” I said, “That is exactly the amount I had in mind.”

The next day I saw my friend working in the yard next door and so I stopped what I was doing and struck up a conversation with him. I could tell he was uneasy so I said, “Oh, by the way, I checked with Kathi about the sale of the land and we thought maybe $1.00 would be sufficient, if you think that is ok.” He looked at me and said, “Oh that is more than alright.” He left rather abruptly, but then the next day I saw him again. He apologized for leaving so quickly but he said he was so taken aback by what we had done that he was in tears. You see, this man is not a Christian. He has made statements, letting me know of the hypocrisy he has seen in those who claim to be Christian and their behavior has hurt him so much that he wants little to do with them. He said, to me, however, what you and your wife have done will cause me to put your names on the top of the list when I think of Preachers.

The next day I was in the yard again and here came the man’s wife and their daughter toward me with tears streaming down their cheeks. They said some very kind words. My response…”This is how Jesus wants his people to be…” The property is not really ours. It belongs to our Lord. I thought it possible that Jesus could have allowed us to buy this home just to have the opportunity to be SALT AND LIGHT to a man who has been disappointed by professing Christians all his life. Maybe he knows now that there are some of us who live for more than the things of this world. We live, hopefully, to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

August 7th, 2007 Posted by | Witnessing | 3 comments

Salt and Light

salt-and-light.jpg The challenge of our Lord to be salt and light in a world plagued by insipidity and darkness is still at the forefront of true disciples today. Springing forth from each generation of Christians is an endless sea of ideas and methods to reach a lost and dying world. Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles the Christian witness must face in a post-modern culture is that the average person does not know he is lost and cares very little, if he is. Kathi and I observed just days ago that our immediate neighbors all around us are people who have nothing to do with the Church. There lives are filled with working, family and fun. The latter seeming to be the most vital. Little thought is given to purpose in life or what occurs after death. Life for so many in our western culture is about experiencing as much they can as fast as they can with as many people as they can and acquiring as much of it as they can. The Christian witness is then left with the perplexing assignment of finding ways of reaching such a culture.

Being salt and light, however, is still in vogue 2000 years after Jesus spoke the words on a hillside in Gallilee. This is true because it involves an eternity-old concept of relationship, which God desires from and among his people. Salt is that element which both flavors and preserves in life. Light describes the realm where God dwells and is that which displaces darkness. As our relationship with our Lord develops, our neighbors feel better when they are around us. Their lives seem more secure to them because they live near someone who knows where ‘true north’ is. Every time they are around us they seem to have more hope and see a future with more possibilities. They know the things for which we stand, not because we are always telling them but because we live our standards and do not compromise our ethics. And we do all that without a self-righteous attitude that sets us above them.

We must remember that Christians are people, who have accepted the grace of God. We are sinners, who know we have offended a holy God and deserve nothing in this life or the next. Because we have been forgiven of our offenses, and have found the way to life eternal we now possess the spiritual roadmap for others to follow. The map to glory certainly involves our knowledge of the Bible but with that in mind let us not use the Bible as a club to beat down people, who care little what we think anyway. Let us be salt…let us live life fully. May life around us be filled with joy. May the world observe us in our sorrows and trials and as they observe may they see that through our tears and frustrations we live by a faith that works. Furthermore, may the shadows in our life reveal the light that guides our steps and may the footprints we leave lead our neighbors to believe in the One who is salt and light in us.

August 7th, 2007 Posted by | Witnessing | comments

Who’s the Boss?

accountability.jpgIn these days of the Church where there seems to be an awakening towards the Biblical concept of Body life and every member ministry, it becomes more imperative than ever that a concise account be developed on the subject of both corporate and personal accountability. Without such a foundation the Church would be doomed to ultimate destruction, since every member would be an end unto himself, and there would be virtually no way of “discerning the spirits” to see if they be of God (I John 4:1). Interestingly, this problem does not seem quite so prevalent within the more liberal parts of the Church, but rather poses a question among the more conservative and evangelical branches. Interestingly, among the charismatic renewal groups and those who claim total independence from any protestant denomination, and where the gifts and callings of the Church are expanded to include such offices as: Apostle and Prophet, the concept of submission and authority has become a subject of paramount importance. Unfortunately, such a teaching in the hands of men can easily become a tool to be used to “feather one’s own nest”, and to get others to do what one wants them to do. It is a known axiom that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, and never has this been more true than within the perimeters of the Body of Christ.

     All across the earth and throughout the ages it has been proven beyond any doubt that men cannot handle very much power. Most ministers of the gospel begin with the most sincere of intentions, but with every step of freedom comes the added responsibility that one must also take steps to insure the gifts given by God are used strictly for His glory and not for the building of one’s own kingdom. In that great and glorious “Day of the Lord”, those who have been given much are also those of whom much is required. Sadly, I fear many of us with this awesome responsibility are in danger of failing our accountability, because our concern has been more with our performance than with His glory. The Old Testament concept of the authority of the man of God is a marvelous example of respect for authority. Saul’s awe of Samuel, and David’s fear and honor of the same laid the groundwork for the New Testament authority of the Church. Commands such as: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (Ps. 105:15), or “Honor my prophets and you will prosper…” add to the weight of evidence that the honor and treatment of “the man of God” invokes the pleasure of God. Conversely, to treat such ones with disrespect may incur the displeasure of God. Such was the case with Miriam, the sister of Moses, when she was stricken with leprosy because she felt the power of God ought to be dispersed among others rather than resting upon just one man. One might say that Miriam was ahead of her time. It was not that she was wrong in her concept, but her motive was wrong. On another occasion, Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp of Israel. Joshua, defending the authority of Moses, asked that they be rebuked. Moses’ response was to offer a wish that “all of God’s men were prophets…” It was vital that a proper respect for the authority of God’s representative be laid in the Old Testament.

      Although the New Testament certainly teaches that, persons of God are to be honored, I believe the more weighty evidence rests with the corporate Body rather than the individual. However, for the corporate Body of Christ to function in a proper manner, it is necessary that each individual view himself/herself as a part of a whole rather than an isolated unit. Just as a burning ember removed from the roaring fire soon looses its energy, so does the Christian isolated from the rest of the Body become ineffective and self-serving. One need only look at the life of Jesus to find evidence of the importance of accountability. When dealing with Jesus, one would think that surely here is one who would not be required to answer to anyone. True! However, within the sovereignty of the Godhead a decision was made that though equal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit would also be mutually responsible to one another. This is evidenced in scripture in many ways. While conversing with the Pharisees on one occasion, Jesus said, “…By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me…” (John 5:30). Earlier in the same conversation He told them, “…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”(John 5:19). Here we have a divine illustration of mutual submission, with which Paul was later to challenge the Churches at Ephesus and Philippi. To the one he said, “Submit to one another…” (Eph. 5:21), and to the other he instructed, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves…” (Phil. 2:3). These are powerful evidences of the voluntary accountability of both our Lord and some of the earliest of New Testament Churches.

     Additional examples from the life of Jesus are found in such passages such as John 2:4 where Jesus speaks to his mother concerning the shortage of wine at the wedding at Cana, and says, “Woman! What have I to do with you?” He, who had been perfectly obedient to his parents to that point in his life, identified a greater one to whom he must now be accountable. Of course, no discussion on the subject of accountability would be complete without Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, when dealing with the fact of separation from his Father and the taking on of sin he said, “…not as I will, but as you will…” (Matt.26:39) In addition, it would seem that Jesus left some of His most powerful words until the final hours of His life. Upon leaving the upper room and walking the rather short distance to Gethsemane, He paused to bring to the hearts of his confused disciples the essence of His message and the key to the Christian life. Looking at a vine growing in a vineyard, Jesus called to mind the historical significance of Israel as a “vine”, and her failure to bear the fruit of her calling. In John 15, He illustrated the interdependence of the disciples’ lives when he said, “I am the true vine…and you are the branches…” It is this interdependence that would best characterize the ecclesia of God. The point of the matter is that the entire universe is made by Him and for Him, and dwells within Him (Col.1:15-20), therefore, for man to establish his independence from God is futile at best. Furthermore, the fact that we all are a part of the vine predicts mutual responsibility and accountability. Jesus said, “Without me ye can do nothing…” (John 15:5).

     Students of the Bible quickly recognize the voluntary submission of Jesus. For example, note Him who was God of Very God, and who had all authority in heaven and earth making a statement such as: “I only do what I see my Father doing…” (John 5:19), or “I only speak what I hear my Father saying…” (John 5:30). The Apostle Paul adds greater weight to the theme of accountability in Phil.2 saying that Jesus, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with god something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…and became obedient to death…on a cross…”

     What does all this have to do with accountability in the Church? What does Jesus’ humility and submission have to do with me being accountable to my brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ? The answer should be obvious. If He, our Lord and Master, has made himself accountable to the Father, should we not do the same? Of course, there will be those who fear the confrontation of the Self and, who wish to answer to no one but God. While this has the initial sound of deep spirituality, it fails the tests of the Laws of love, and humility. It was James and John, who got their mother to request of Jesus that they be permitted to sit on the right and left hand of Jesus in His kingdom, betraying the utter selfishness of their hearts and identifying them as ecclesiastical climbers rather than partners in service. It was in dealing with situations such as this with the disciples that Jesus taught them that the greatest of them would be the servant of all of them (Mark 9). In doing so He was laying the groundwork for their interdependence. The letters of Paul establish for us the foundation of Biblical New Testament government as well as any writings of the Holy Scriptures. According to Galatians, one of the earliest of New Testament writings, Paul sets the standard by which all Christian leaders should measure themselves and their ministries. Paul wrote to these young believers in the faith because his “thorn in the flesh”, a man or a group of men dedicated to requiring believers to follow the works of law rather than the gift of grace, was saying that Paul was not a legitimate Apostle. Paul first established the fact that His message of grace was given not by men but by “revelation of Jesus Christ”. He said he initially did not consult any man concerning his preaching, but after three (3) years he went to the Jerusalem elders and presented his gospel, “for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. (Gal.2: 2). Here we arguably have the greatest of all the apostles, who recognized himself as a part of the Body of Christ and voluntarily submitted himself and his teaching to other brothers.

     On another occasion he was writing to the Church at Corinth concerning the offering being taken for the saints in Jerusalem. In 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 Paul says we want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. 21” For we are taking pains to do what is right not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” Certainly this would seem to be a perfect example of accountability for every believer in every calling and in every generation to make himself accountable for the protection and the testimony of the gospel. The early Church lived the life of accountability. Paul purposely programmed his churches with the method of personal and corporate accountability built into the very fabric of her existence. The Christian life is best lived in community with the brothers and sisters being mutually responsible to one another. For that reason, Paul commanded the believers in Ephesus to “(submit) themselves one to another in the fear of God.” This method recognizes God as the final arbiter in all things, and requires the Christian family to place themselves under His authority. Since the Church is the earthly fullness of Him (Eph.1: 22-23), and since behavior towards the Church is tantamount to behavior towards Christ (Matt.25: 40; Acts 2:47; Acts 9:4), and since the Church is the Body of Christ, it would seem foolish for one part of the Body to try to act apart from the other parts. Rather, the more perfect testimony for our Lord is for the world to see the Body of Christ flowing in perfect harmony and beauty with the abiding result that “the world might believe…”(John 17:21). This has been an effort to give a brief defense for the unity of the Church and to offer some alternative to the dangerous emphasis being place upon callings to the exclusion of the more paramount message of the centrality of Christ and the unity, ministry, and service of His Body. Gifts and callings are essential to a healthy Body of Christ. However, to emphasize the hand as of more value than the foot is nonsense, since both are needed and both must work in concert with one another to make the body move as a unit. So it is with Christ. Let us, who live and dwell inside of and make up the Body of Christ, consider one another of more value than ourselves, and let us consider the more excellent way of love and voluntarily submit ourselves to Christ. When we do, we also submit ourselves to one another.

August 4th, 2007 Posted by | Authoritarianism, True Church LIfe | 2 comments

Greater Works

The following is a response to a question by a young Christian asking for clarification on the passage of scripture from John 14:12 where Jesus predicts that the disciples will do greater works than he has done. The question has to do with the apparent lack of “greater works” in 21st Century Church.

This certainly is an interesting passage and one that can bring conviction upon a Church that appears to be Christian in name only. However, let me say first that it would be impossible for mere humans to do greater miracles than Jesus did when he was on the earth. To interpret this passage correctly one has to keep it in the context of the moment it was spoken. Jesus was attempting to bring comfort to disciples who had just been told that he was going away. Their fear was that they would be orphaned. His comfort was that He was going to the Father and because he was going to the Father He would send another comforter (the Holy Spirit – Christ within us). The term “greater” can also be translated as “larger”. The works that they would do and that we have the opportunity to do would have a larger scope and therefore be “greater”. Reading the book of Acts it is easy to see how Jesus’ words were fulfilled. Peter’s first sermon gained 3000 converts, then later there were a few thousand more and on and on. By the end of the 3rd Century the world was effectively evangelized, not all of it was perfect but the influence of Christ had “exploded” throughout the world. Unfortunately, religiosity entered in, Church and State became one and the Dark Ages brought in a millennium of spiritual tragedy. But that is another story…Notice in John that Jesus told the disciples that anything they asked in his name he would do. The key is “in his name”, “according to his will”.

A significant part of Jesus’ ‘greater works’ has to do with the fact of his living in the heart of each believer and among the Church. In a real sense when we do his will on earth it is Christ doing his own will. We are each portions of Him, connected to Him by a scarlet thread of Fellowship. While He was in human flesh he was bound by time and space, but now living in us he can be thousands of places at one time and throughout the ages. Having said that I agree that the power of the Church is lying dormant. We have the resurrection power abiding in us but it lies powerless because of a lack of surrender both individually and corporately. The latter being the most important. In a religious culture where we have symbols, icons, liturgy, ministry, preaching, ordinances, affluence, talents, gifts, callings, men of God and women of God, missions and money we cannot say “Silver and Gold have I none” but neither can we say, “Rise, take up thy bed and walk”. My observation is that we have lost our passion, our connection with our Lord. A husband and wife can perfunctorily make love but when there is a deep fellowship obtained the love overflows and is deepened. Very possibly the best picture of “greater works” is in ‘the dance’. There is a leader and a follower. The observer cannot tell who is leading and who is following. The participants each have surrendered their personal desires to the beauty of the dance. There is little that compares to the power of two people in the unity of the dance. The gliding, the soaring of the couple is transferred to the observers and the “greater work” is done. In the Church of the 21st Century we must concentrate on knowing Christ intimately, surrendering our wills to Him. The first Christians got it and Luke recorded some of it in Acts. Throughout history their have been flickers of His light and moments of greater works. The untold millions of people born again certainly are greater works. But Christ’s desire is the Fellowship of love and the beauty of the dance…

August 4th, 2007 Posted by | Spiritual Gifts | 2 comments